We are in a new year with new challenges and new aspirations. After closing out 2020, I think we are all in search of a bit of inspiration. I feel incredibly lucky that this inspiration came in the form of two incredible individuals who also happen to be my colleagues.
I’m proud to introduce Marina Blandino and Ashley Williams. Ashley and Marina are the co-founders of Women of CHESA – a community of women empowering women in the media and entertainment (M&E) industry.
Marina has been with CHESA for over 5 years and is our Director of Support Services and Customer Success. She’s also CHESA’s first Director woman of color. Ashley has been with us nearly 2 years and is one of our amazing Project Managers.
What’s interesting is they’ve only met in person briefly and for the most part, their jobs don’t intersect often. So, how did this spark of creativity lead us to where we are currently?
As fellow women at CHESA (Chesapeake Systems), Ashley and Marina were seeking a way to connect with each other and with other women in the tech space, while in lock-down. This resulted in submitting requests to attend a virtual conference for women in technology. CHESA’s CEO, Jason Paquin, encouraged them to invite all female employees to attend, regardless of their role (sales, engineering, accounting, etc.). Nearly all said yes.
Ashley and Marina quickly realized they could do more. They realized they wanted to do more. And, their teammates wanted more.
With management’s full support, the Women of CHESA was born.
They started by launching monthly brunches with all their female coworkers. No work talk allowed – this was a time to just connect with each other. We started to share some of our personal likes and dislikes, our success stories and even some of the struggles we encounter. This was a way for all of us to come together and create those crucial supportive relationships that being remote was making more challenging.
CHESA has hired two women during COVID. Women of CHESA was a way for them to quickly feel welcome and create allies while never meeting in person. The group was already bearing fruit.
“This is a journey that we are going on together. And it’s so exciting because we are creating something so positive. A reason why I took my promotion is because I want to make sure I’m on that leadership team making those changes. I have a voice to say we need more women.”
Marina Blandino, Co-Founder, Women of CHESA
Currently, Women of CHESA have all female members but a lot of male allies.
Big Picture Goals:
- Target college campuses and help drive awareness of the various careers available in the M&E industry. This will ideally create opportunities to hire a more diverse work pool.
- Partner with other industry organizations that are working towards similar goals. Eventually they want to launch their own mentoring program, but for now plan to support Rise’s North America mentoring program this year.
- Create a paid internship program to bring more women into our industry and give them the chance to see what a career in M&E could look like.
- Create a scholarship program to target women before entering university or deciding on a major.
2020 proved that we can be productive while remote. Ideally, we still have face to face time but, for the moments in between, Women of CHESA will continue to find ways to connect with each other and maintain that crucial support system.